Enve doesn’t like building race day wheels. Their goal is to make light, fast, strong wheels that can be ridden every day with as little maintenance as possible.
The SES 4.5 AR is a wheel designed to embody those traits. The details are all in the name, which stands for Smart Enve System, All Road, 4.5 model.
Important specifications are as follows:
25mm internal width is on par with many mountain bike rims, and is optimised around a 28c tyre. Built to take on rougher terrain such as the cobbled classics, the higher volume increases traction and comfort when aiming for the road less travelled. At 49mm deep front and 55mm rear, this puts them in the heavily contested territory of wheels like the Zipp 303 or Shimano C50.
At 440g front and 450g rear they’re also decently light for such an aero wheel. Enve mould their carbon rims with removable bladders; it’s a more expensive technique, but ultimately adds up to wheels that are stronger at any given weight with no grams wasted. Being designed around disc brakes also means the rims don’t have to deal with heat from braking so should last longer than a rim brake model.
These rims are also tubeless compatible, and have a maximum pressure of 80psi. Some riders may baulk at this as being far too soft, but my testing didn’t find that to be the case. Given the All Road intentions I would recommend trying the tubeless conversion on these wheels; reduced punctures and increased comfort are just some of the perks, so long as you don’t feel a need to regularly swap between different tyres.
So, the numbers are great, but how do they ride?
When taken on unmaintained country roads the Enves lived up to their promise of being comfortable. It’s possible to make a rim that’s too stiff and lacking any vertical compliance, leading to the bike getting bounced about by every little bump in the road.
These rims do not make that mistake, aided in part by being able to run high volume tyres with them. That’s not to say they can’t perform though, as laterally they’re flex-free, with no noticeable windup in the spokes under power. Once moving they hold their speed well with those aero gains kicking in when putting some power down. It can be hard to quantify this in real world terms, but if average speeds on my test rides are anything to go by then I’m happy to endorse Enve’s claims that these work. I was pleased to see too that cross winds didn’t buffet me around noticeably with these rims, making them a suitable pick for everyday riding. They’re very stable.
The lower tyre pressures demanded by these rims weren’t a problem either, with no adverse effects on speed detected. If you see yourself riding on perfectly smooth asphalt or on a velodrome then perhaps the regular 4.5 might be a better fit for its ability to run higher pressures in situations where additional compliance isn’t necessary, but for typical Kiwi roads the AR is a good match.
After-market support on these wheels is excellent as well. Enve offer five years’ warranty for manufacturing defects, and a lifetime crash replacement programme of 50% off RRP for any issues not covered by the warranty…not that you should need them because these wheels are clearly built to last.
If you’re after an investment in a set of fast, light, comfortable wheels that’ll go the distance and make your riding buddies a little bit enve-ous (sorry) then the AR 4.5 is a good all-rounder pick for New Zealand roads.
Distributior: Wide Open
Words: Robin Page
Images: Cameron Mackenzie